State Judge Kay Bates to retire in December

State District Judge Kay Bates — whose taped phone conversations with her jailed son led police to claim he has received special treatment while incarcerated — said Wednesday that she won’t run for re-election this fall but will instead retire in December.

Bates said she decided to step down because of her husband’s heart problems.

“It was a real difficult decision to make because I love my job,” said the 63-year-old Bates, who was elected to the 19th Judicial District Court in 1996. “I will miss everybody. I will miss it.”

Bates, a Democrat, said she wants to spend more time with her husband of three years, Evan “Buddy” McElveen, and her family.

“I just decided life’s too short. It was time to spend more time with him and my family,” she said.

Bates’ son, William “Billy” Bates Colvin, was arrested in December 2012 for allegedly stealing drugs and guns from the evidence vault at the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse where he worked. He pleaded not guilty in October. The charges have not been resolved.

“That didn’t really play a part in it,” Bates said of her retirement decision. She did acknowledge that the situation with her son has been “hard” and “difficult.”

“I was shocked and devastated when he was arrested,” she said. “As a parent I was saddened by what happened.”

Bates said her son is sorry for what he did and is willing to accept the consequences.

Colvin’s attorney, Frank Holthaus, has said Colvin intends to take responsibility for his actions. Colvin was suffering from severe substance-abuse issues at the time he smuggled the drugs out of the courthouse, Holthaus has stated.

Colvin, of Baton Rouge, and five others were indicted in July 2013 on state charges stemming from the alleged theft of 48 pounds of cocaine and five guns from the clerk’s evidence vault in 2012.

Colvin has admitted smuggling cocaine from the vault and distributing it for profit — to the tune of $200,000. He told detectives he spent $20,000 of the money on a vehicle and $30,000 on assorted jewelry, a search warrant affidavit says.

The case rocked the downtown state courthouse and the clerk’s office, and accelerated planned changes at the evidence room. The changes included more cameras and locks, written logs and random drug-testing.

In police reports filed into the court record, an investigator asserted Colvin had received special treatment at the jail where he being held while awaiting trial because of his mother’s position, such as being able to visit with his mother whenever she is free. Bates has declined to discuss the issue.

Bates was a 19th JDC commissioner for 12 years and an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor for five years before being elected to the 19th JDC bench.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve the people of this parish,” she said. “I’ve spent my whole career serving in the justice system.”

The Division M seat that Bates holds encompasses the cities of Central, Baker and Zachary as well as the north East Baton Rouge Parish area including Sherwood Forest.

Qualifying for the fall judicial elections runs Aug. 20-22. The election is Nov. 4.